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5E [GUIDE] Battle On: The Fighter Guide

Gladius Legis

Explorer
Battle On: The Fighter Guide


fighter.jpg


"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories." — Sun Tzu


Guide linked on Google Docs, as well.


Table of Contents:
I. Introduction
II. Basics of the Class
III. Martial Archetypes
IV. Races
V. Feats
VI. Equipment
VII. Multiclassing
VIII. FAQ
IX. Builds and Combos

This guide will use the following ratings:
Red is dead. A choice that either adds nothing of value to your character or might even actively hurt it.
Purple is a substandard choice. It might be useful in corner-case situations, but overall it's not worth the investment.
Black is average. You're not hurting your character by taking this, and it might even help in some situations, but there are better choices.
Blue is a good choice. It definitely helps your character in the majority of cases.
Sky Blue is a fantastic choice. An option you should strongly consider above most others.
Gold is mandatory. It's a rare rating that denotes something that is so good that you must take it, or you can't call yourself optimized.

This guide takes from the following sources:
PHB - Player’s Handbook
MM - Monster Manual
DMG - Dungeon Master’s Guide
EEPC - Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
SCAG - Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
VGM – Volo's Guide to Monsters
XGTE - Xanathar's Guide to Everything
MTOF - Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
*** Note: Material from Unearthed Arcana is always considered playtest material and will not be rated in this guide. But feel free to discuss it in the thread.


*********************************


I. Introduction


What's a Fighter?

Original name Fighting-Man, the Fighter is and has always been the character that wields the most weapons and the best weapons, with the durability to stay up front and face down the enemy (assuming they're not using bows, instead), put out the most reliable damage, and occupy the enemy's attention away from the spellcasters and the rogues.

The Fighter always gets the most attacks per round of any other character classes (at least without any buffing spells). It's definitely been true as early as AD&D 1e. Later in that edition's life, with Unearthed Arcana, the Fighter got Weapon Specialization to get more extra attacks and an additional edge when using a specific weapon. That carried on into 2e, with Weapon Specialization being the main reason one would still play a Fighter even if one had the stats for a Paladin or Ranger. When those latter two classes got something similar to Specialization in a later supplement, Combat & Tactics, the Fighter got a few better still with Mastery on up to Grand Mastery. Grand Master Fighters were a real terror.

In 3e, the Fighter's skill with weapons and combat techniques were represented by getting a bonus feat every other level. Unfortunately, the 3e system never let the Fighter excel. Aside from the spellcasters' blatant overpoweredness and ability to actually fight better than Fighters with the right buffs, the Fighter's extra attacks were represented by ever-decreasing iterative attacks that made all of them after about the second unlikely to hit most of the time. And furthermore, the Fighter only got those attacks if they didn't move anything more than a 5-foot step. Needless to say, that hamstrung the Fighter. A later supplement called Tome of Battle introduced the Warblade, which was essentially a Fighter that was much more functional in the 3e framework, thanks to maneuvers letting them stay on the move while still doing good damage and producing worthwhile effects on the battlefield.

4e expanded on the concept introduced in Tome of Battle, which was good, but shoehorned the Fighter into being *entirely* a heavily armored melee combatant. It was almost unanimously considered the strongest of the Defender classes in that edition, with the ability to put out nearly as much damage as Strikers (in some cases more). However, anyone wanting to play an archer or a light-armored combat character needed to play a Ranger or a Rogue, instead.

Strong as the Fighter was in 4e, some found maneuvers too restrictive and reinventing the wheel for no real reason. Maneuvers, along with a few feats here and there, were the only way to get the Fighter to make the extra attacks the class had been capable of all along, and maneuvers that let the Fighter do that were considered among the best. Along with a few "anime-ish" type powers like the infamous Come and Get It, the Fighter's top powers were easy to identify, thus crumbling the illusion of choice. Later on, in Essentials, simpler Fighters, the Knight and Slayer, were introduced to half-heartedly invoke the old "I hit it with my sword" feel.

5e compromises among the past editions when it can, and this is no clearer than when looking at the Fighter class. The Fighter is capable of multiattacking all the time, with the same attack bonus everytime, like in AD&D except even better since they get all those attacks on their turns. They can move at any point between their attacks; if they have nothing else in common with the 3e Warblade, they can at least utilize their motion without sacrificing their offense. One archetype lets the Fighter just "hit it with its sword" every time, while other archetypes have substantially more complexity (though it's very much debated whether that complexity is satisfactory for 4e and Tome of Battle fans). And last but not least, once again Fighters can be built as lightly armored characters and archers ... and do very well at it this time.


Mechanical overview

In short, if you want to make the most attacks with your weapon out of any class in the game, which translates to some of the highest consistent damage output in the game, the Fighter is your class in 5e. Helping that along are abilities to self-heal, reroll the occasional failed save, and take either more feats or more attribute increases than anyone in the game.


Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Highest overall damage output in the game, being good at both sustained damage per round and at burst damage. Some Barbarians will come within shouting distance in baseline DPR, but they have no reliable burst damage. Some Paladins will come reasonably close in burst damage, but their baseline DPR lacks. You excel at both.
  • Durable. With a d10 hit die, self-healing feature, proficiency in all armors, and the most chances to take feats, you'll have no problem staying upright if you build and play right.
  • Single-attribute dependent. Fighters really only need to maximize one of Strength or Dexterity (depending on what their main weapon and style are). And on top of that, they get the most ability score improvements out of any classes.
  • Incredible build diversity. With the SAD, high number of ability score improvements and their mechanics, Fighters can be built many ways, all of them effective.

Weaknesses:

  • A bit on the weak side when making Opportunity Attacks or other attacks with their reactions, or when attacking with Readied actions. Fighters' damage output comes largely from the number of attacks that they make on their turns, rather than the damage of those individual attacks. Barbarians, Paladins and especially Rogues are better in this category.
  • Compared to other classes Fighters are still mostly lacking in the non-combat pillars of play. (Though thanks to backgrounds they ARE better at this than they were in previous editions.)
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
II. Basics of the Class


Hit Die - d10: Only the Barbarian has it better than this. You’re on par with the Paladin and Ranger here, definitely suitable for being in the thick of a melee.


Proficiencies

Armor: All armor and shields is as good as it gets.
Weapons: All simple and martial weapons is as good as it gets.
Tools: None. If you get any proficiencies here, they'll likely be from your background. Also, at least you can actually spend money and downtime to pick up proficiencies in this category.

Saving Throws: Every class gets one "common" save (DEX, CON, WIS) and one "uncommon" save (STR, INT, CHA). Yours are Constitution and Strength, which are both as good as it gets. CON is the best common save to get, protecting against many incapacitating and crippling conditions and helping you maintain concentration should you ever by chance pick up some spellcasting ability. And STR saves are by far the most common "uncommon" save that come up, even if the effects STR deals with aren't nearly as nasty as CHA and even INT.

Skills: As you might expect, Fighters aren't exactly skill monkeys. You get two from the following, and spoiler alert, they'll both be spoken for when you see below. (Your background will give you more skill proficiencies, which are not restricted to this list. Your race may also give you more chances to pick skill proficiencies, again not limited to this list.)

  • Acrobatics (DEX): Mandatory for DEX-Fighters, who use it for escaping grapples and resisting shoves (but NOT for grappling or shoving yourself). Can serve as the DEX equivalent to Athletics in a few other cases involving climbing or jumping, too, DM depending. Mandatory if you're attacking with DEX. STR-attackers should prioritize Athletics, though this still isn't a bad pick for them.
  • Animal Handling (WIS): You might consider this one if you plan on being mounted a lot.
  • Athletics (STR): Mandatory for STR-Fighters, helping you climb, jump, and swim. More importantly, it can help you break out of grapples and resist shoves. And, if you’re STR-based, grappling and shoving become viable combat options for you. In any case, mandatory if you're taking STR as your attack stat. If you're attacking with DEX, Acrobatics is more vital, though this still isn't a bad pick.
  • History (INT): You can definitely do without it. Not like you'll be good at it anyway, being as dim-witted as you probably are.
  • Insight (WIS): Good for countering against enemy Deception checks, including lies and attempts to deceive you, so it’s worth considering via background. Taking proficiency in this helps make up for a likely average or slightly above-average WIS.
  • Intimidation (CHA): The one interaction skill on your list. Most of you won't have the CHA to excel at this, though. However, a popular variant rule (PHB p. 175) lets you use STR for this skill in some contexts, so if your DM uses that variant, this gets much better.
  • Perception (WIS): The most tested and most vital skill in the game. Take it. Period.
  • Survival (WIS): An all-around useful skill in the exploration tier when stuck in the wilderness. Helps you obsolete the Ranger.


Non-class skills: You can’t get these with your class options, but you might get these from your background or race:

  • Stealth (DEX): If you choose to attack using DEX, this is well worth trying to get. Assassin allies will thank you for it, too.
  • Persuasion (CHA): Another social skill, and while YMMV, probably comes up in more crucial gatherings, if not more often than Intimidation in a lot of cases. You probably won't have the CHA to be truly effective, though, barring a couple of specific builds.
  • Sleight of Hand (DEX): Shouldn’t be a priority, but not really a waste either if you get it from a background. Can come in handy.
  • Arcana (INT): Some Eldritch Knights (the ones who actually have a high INT) will care, simply because it lets you find and disable magical traps. All other Fighters won't.
  • Deception (CHA): Handy as it can be, you likely won't have the Charisma for it, and this is a skill that's better left to those who can be better at it. Failing at Deception can be pretty devastating.
  • Investigation (INT): A pretty useful INT skill, but not enough to want to invest in that attribute.
  • Performance (CHA): Can be a solid source of income during downtime, if nothing else. Definitely not a priority, though.
  • Nature/Religion (INT): Like History, you won’t be any good at these, so don’t bother.
  • Medicine (WIS): Leave the healing to the Cleric and Paladin. Get a Healer's Kit if you really feel left out.



Attributes

Fighters in general have the luxury of needing to maximize just one attribute, and that's either Strength or Dexterity. They'll want to start Constitution as high as possible but don't necessarily need to maximize it. Having the highest number of ability score increases really helps, too, on top of that. All Arcane Archers and some Eldritch Knights, as in the ones who will actually cast spells with DCs, need as high Intelligence as possible, but those are the only real exceptions.

Point buys vary depending on what you really need. Many Fighters can dump both Intelligence and Charisma, allowing an array of 15,15,14,10,8,8 if need be (adjusting based on racial modifiers or possible Variant Human feat). DEX-Fighters can even dump STR and go with 15,15,15,8,8,8 if they don't need INT or CHA for anything.


  • Strength: One of the two possible Fighter attack stats. STR is the way to go if you want one of the most damaging melee setups (e.g. Great Weapon Master, Polearm Master, Shield Master, grappling/shoving). The disadvantage to STR is that you'll have to use thrown weapons for range if you're in a position where you can't melee. Thrown weapons are very much inferior since they are subject to the one free item interaction on your turn limit, thus usually making you forego Extra Attack with them. DEX-Fighters can actually dump this all the way at 8, multiclass concerns notwithstanding.
  • Dexterity: The other possible Fighter attack stat. DEX is far, far better at ranged combat, being able to use longbows and crossbows effectively, along with the feats that bolster the use of those weapons (Sharpshooter for both, Crossbow Expert for crossbows). Finesse melee, on the other hand, while viable, isn't very damaging without a Rogue multiclass. DEX also governs initiative and a common saving throw; for those reasons, STR-Fighters do NOT want a negative modifier here, though putting it at 10-12 is OK.
  • Constitution: All Fighters need it for hit points and CON save. Start it at a bare minimum of 14 post-racial, but a 16 start is even better. It's never a bad idea to devote any ability score increases to this, either, though feats are usually a higher priority if your game uses them.
  • Intelligence: The designated dump stat for almost all Fighters. You're not a book learner. INT skills for the most part aren't useful to you, and INT saves are very rare. Only exceptions: Arcane Archers, and Eldritch Knights who plan on actually taking and using spells with a DC. On the other hand, the Eldritch Knights who only cast defensive or utility spells with no DCs can dump this at 8 with the rest of them.
  • Wisdom: WIS is a vital save. Fear and Charm effects, Hold Person, along with a lot of other incapacitating effects all test this save. For that reason alone, you don't want to dump this. If you're playing with feats, start with an odd score here, because at some point you WILL take Resilient (WIS), which will also give you a +1 to WIS for the next modifier. WIS also governs the all-important Perception skill, another reason you don't want to dump it. A score of 12-14 after taking Resilient (WIS) is good to shoot for.
  • Charisma: For most Fighters, a dump stat just like INT. There are a couple of exceptions, though, namely Battle Masters who take the Rally maneuver, as well as Purple Dragon Knights who would like some positive modifier to go with their free double proficiency in Persuasion. Those exceptions should aim for a 14, which qualifies for Inspiring Leader and gives a +2 modifier for it. Some good multiclass choices for a Fighter also require a CHA 13 to qualify, so there's also that to consider. Samurai who want to be a party face should set this at 10.



Backgrounds

Each background comes with two skills, then a tool proficiency and/or language, plus a unique feature. You can customize your background with help from your DM, but here are the "official" backgrounds.

Also keep in mind that if a background gives you a skill you already had from your class or race, you get to pick any other skill to replace it (including a non-class skill). This is a good way for a DEX-Fighter to pick up, say, Stealth.


[sblock=PHB backgrounds]
Acolyte: Insight, Religion, two languages. Insight is useful, Religion is not, and the languages may or may not be. The temple benefit is also pretty spotty, what if there's no temple of your specific god where you're headed?

Charlatan: Deception, Sleight of Hand, Disguise Kit, Forgery Kit. Two OK skills and a false identity.

Criminal/Spy: Deception, Stealth, Thieves' Tools (free pick), Gaming Set (one). There's one way to pick up Stealth. Deception likely isn't great for you, though. Criminal contact, on the other hand, can be very useful.

Entertainer: Acrobatics, Performance, Disguise Kit, Musical Instrument (one). DEX-Fighters should already have Acrobatics, so that's a free skill pick (Stealth, ahem). The Gladiator variant is more your deal with the free net or trident.

Folk Hero: Animal Handling, Survival, Artisan's Tools (one), Vehicles (Land). Decent skills and free room and board from commoners. Good one.

Guild Artisan/Guild Merchant: Insight, Persuasion, Artisan's Tools (one), one language. Decent skills with the potential for some nice political connections. The Merchant variant is probably better suited with the Navigator's Tools and the mule and cart.

Hermit: Medicine, Religion, Herbalism Kit, one language. Yeah, um, moving on.

Noble
: History, Persuasion, Gaming Set (one), one language. Thematic fit, but History is bad and Persuasion only fits a couple of build types. Noble privilege is OK, but the Retainers alternative is more trouble than it's worth. Knight variant gives you a squire as one of your retainers, which is a double-edged sword since the squire can be an XP sink and make your party level up more slowly.

Outlander: Athletics, Survival, Musical Instrument (one), one language. Two good skills (you'll already have Athletics if going STR, so that's a free skill pick), and some abilities that let you cope well in the wilderness similar to a Ranger.

Sage: Arcana, History, two languages. Other than Arcana for certain Eldritch Knights, there's nothing for you here.

Sailor/Pirate
: Athletics, Perception, Navigator's Tools, Vehicles (Water). Two vital skills that in practice will likely be free skill picks. Ship's Passage is nice, too, but the Pirate's Bad Reputation letting you get away with petty crimes is probably even better and a lot more fun, arr!

Soldier
: Athletics, Intimidation, Gaming Set (one), Vehicles (Land). Fits the Fighter fluff-wise to a T. Athletics will likely be a free pick in practice if STR-based, and Intimidation can be good depending. Military rank's benefits are great, letting you give orders to guards and other soldier NPCs.

Urchin: Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Disguise Kit, Thieves' Tools. Stealth, another decent skill and tool proficiencies. (Plus a pet mouse!) The faster intra-city travel feature is pretty iffy, though,
[/sblock]


[sblock=SCAG backgrounds]
City Watch: Athletics, Insight, two languages. Two great skills and knowledge of the watch posts and criminal dens in the city. You could even play the corrupt watchman and get in good with the latter, if you wanted. The Investigator variant isn't really your thing, though, since you won't be smart enough to put Investigation to good use.

Clan Crafter: History, Insight, Artisan's Tools (one), Dwarvish language. Ooh, you get to be friends with Dwarves. How about ... no.

Cloistered Scholar: History, another knowledge skill, two languages. Next.

Courtier: Insight, Persuasion, two languages. One good skill, one that fits certain builds, and an intimate knowledge of an area's politics and government connections wherever you go.

Faction Agent: Insight, one faction-specific skill, two languages. Being an agent of one of the Realms' most powerful organizations kind of speaks for itself. Insight is always a good skill to know, but the second skill you get typically isn't the best.

Far Traveler
: Insight, Perception, Musical Instrument (one), one language. One good skill and one necessary one, and the opportunity for more connections with some powerful people. Very good.

Inheritor
: Survival, Arcana (the other two options aren't worth mention), Gaming Set OR Musical Instrument, one language. Eh, one good skill and one marginal skill, and the feature amounts to little more than an intriguing story hook. You can do better.

Knight of the Order: Persuasion, Arcana/History/Nature/Religion, Gaming Set OR Musical Instrument, one language. Interesting note: The knight order descriptions do not mention which skill they're attached to. The skills aren't the best, but being associated with a powerful knight order has its perks.

Mercenary Veteran: Athletics, Persuasion, Gaming Set (one), Vehicles (Land). One great skill, one depending, and a guaranteed comfortable lifestyle.

Urban Bounty Hunter
: Two of Deception, Insight, Persuasion, and Stealth; two of Gaming Set, Musical Instrument or Thieves' Tools. As a Fighter, you're most likely to pick Stealth and Insight, two great skills. Definitely want Thieves' Tools. Also plenty of opportunities for connections from the local gangs and thieves' guilds to members of high society. Doesn't get much better.

Uthgardt Tribe Member: Athletics, Survival, Musical Instrument OR Artisan's Tools (one). Two good skills (Athletics likely resulting in a free pick), enhanced foraging and free allies. Sort of a Realms-specific version of Outlander, which is good.

Waterdhavian Noble
: History, Persuasion, Gaming Set (one) OR Musical Instrument (one), one language. At least one, if not two, wasted skills, and some renown in Waterdeep and the North that lets you live a comfortable lifestyle on credit. Eh.
[/sblock]




Class Features

Lv. 1

Fighting Style: Choose one among the following.

  • Archery: Mandatory if you're using ranged weapons; that +2 to hit is unmatched. Partially mitigates the hit/damage trade of the Sharpshooter feat. Or, if you're not playing with feats, this still cancels out half cover.
  • Defense: +1 to AC in armor. Decent enough, though an offensive style is usually more attractive. Makes a fine second style if getting one from Champion, or from a multiclass with Paladin or Ranger.
  • Dueling: Don’t scoff at a flat +2 damage per hit. At early levels that amounts to well more than a 20% increase in damage done. That proportion decreases somewhat at higher levels, but it’s always going to be a noticeable boost to your offense with a one-handed weapon. Note that you CAN use a shield with this style (just not a second weapon).
  • Great Weapon Fighting: Small damage boost from using a great weapon. Less than Dueling adds to one-handers, but whatever, it's a damage boost. Battle Masters should note that this does NOT apply to Superiority Dice, just the weapon, according to Sage Advice. If your DM ignores Sage Advice then this gets better for Battle Masters and also Eldritch Knights with Booming Blade.
  • Protection: Again, I prefer offense, but this shield-exclusive style is good at what it does. With this, you’ll want to finish your movement for the round next to someone under duress when you need to protect them. Does lose its value if you plan to get other defender-style reactions like from the Sentinel feat.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: Dual-wielding is plain bad for single-classed Fighters starting at Lv. 5. Great weapons outpace its damage by a mile starting at that point, and even Dueling outpaces it starting at Lv. 11. However, multiclassing Rogue does redeem dual-wielding and this style.

Second Wind: A throwback to 4e that you get all to yourself, this is your bonus-action self-heal, 1/short rest. Scales pretty decently at higher levels for what it is. (e.g. Lv. 11 Second Wind is 1d10+11=16.5; upcast 5th-level Healing Word is 5d4+5=17.5)


Lv. 2 (17)

Action Surge: Also a throwback to 4e just for you, this is one of 5e's premier nova abilities. The extra action can be used for a lot of things, but you would prefer to use it to double your number of attacks that round and get that burst damage. At Lv. 17, you get 2/short rest for even more nova goodness.


Lv. 3

Martial Archetypes will be discussed in the next section.


Lv. 4 (6, 8, 12, 14, 16, 19)

Ability Score Improvement: You get 7 of these, the most of any class. Combined with your reliance on really just one stat, you get amazing build versatility and the chance to take numerous feats. Most other classes get only 5, and the Rogue gets 6.


Lv. 5 (11, 20)

Extra Attack: Doubles the power of your Attack action. And then at Lv. 11, while everyone else with this ability is stuck at 2 attacks/action, you get a third. And then at Lv. 20, a mighty fourth, which really does make for one of the stronger capstones in 5e.


Lv. 9 (13, 17)

Indomitable: One reroll of a failed save every day (and eventually 2/day and 3/day). Good when you really need to shake off a condition. If you're playing with feats, take Resilient (WIS) to really make this ability work for you.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
III. Martial Archetypes


Champion: The "I hit it with my sword" archetype, geared toward beginners and Fighter players who liked the simplicity of the class in a previous edition. It's simple, alright. Requires (and allows for) no tactical round-to-round decisions, and always does what it does. If that’s your idea of fun (and fun IS the most important factor), then hey, more power to ya. Just don't cry when someone at the table next to you is rocking a Battle Master or Eldritch Knight and impacting battles much more than you can ever hope to.

  • Improved Critical: Lv. 3. Doubles your crit chance from 5% to 10%. Which would have some appeal if you actually had something substantial to add to crits. Great Weapon Master and/or a magic weapon that inflicts extra dice in damage helps, but then you run into the other problem, which is simply that you can't rely on crits happening when you want them to. If one happens in Round 1, great. If it happens in Round 4, instead, whoop dee doo. Touted as the signature of this archetype, it just pales in comparison to what Battle Masters and Eldritch Knights can do.
  • Remarkable Athlete: Lv. 7. Aside from the half-proficiency bump to initiative, this is really quite unremarkable.
  • Additional Fighting Style: Lv. 10. Well, that's nice. Either diversify your modes of offense, or take the Defense style.
  • Superior Critical: Lv. 15. Your crit chance is now 15% per hit. Yay, slightly better chance of getting a little random extra damage when you may or may not have needed it most.
  • Survivor: Lv. 18. Finally, you get a legitimately solid feature with some free healing when below half your hit point maximum. Alas, too little too late to make up for the rest of this archetype's mediocrity.

Battle Master: The archetype that reflects the more technical and tactical Fighter most recently in vogue. Debated whether it succeeds at evoking the spirit of the 3e Warblade or the 4e Fighter, but it definitely succeeds at being effective and powerful. With your maneuvers, you have great control over how you can affect the course of every battle, and when. The only real weakness of this archetype comes if the DM is stingy with short rests; if you get below the 2 short rests per day recommended by the DMG, then the BM suffers quite a bit.

  • Combat Superiority: Lv. 3 (7, 10, 15). Starts great, gets even better. Three maneuvers at Lv. 3, plus 4 Superiority Dice/short rest make you versatile from the start, and additional dice and maneuvers at well-paced increments add to the goodness. The only knock is that there really should've been some high-level maneuvers involving the use of multiple dice, but those'll be easy enough to add to the chassis if WOTC goes that route.
  • Student of War: Lv. 3. Tool proficiencies as a whole are a lot more useful with XGTE, so this feature is much more of an asset than it used to be. Crafting is still pretty much useless, however, so if you’re playing in a PHB+1 type of game where XGTE isn’t an option, then this is more or less just fluff to say that your Battle Master is a blacksmith or skilled calligrapher or something.
  • Know Your Enemy: Lv. 7. Size up anyone you observe or interact with for a minute. The cool factor is undeniable, and it can actually be pretty useful. Take a minute from a hiding spot to determine just how much of your resources you and your party will care to use to beat the enemy, for example, so you don’t overuse them for a battle you’ve determined is relatively easy. Or notice that the seemingly harmless new butler may be more than meets the untrained eye ...
  • Improved Combat Superiority: Lv. 10, 18. Superiority Dice grow into d10 and eventually d12, making your maneuvers more effective and/or damaging. Not sexy, but it works.
  • Relentless: Lv. 15. Gives you a Superiority Die at the start of a fight if you blew through them all. Shouldn't come up too often, but sometimes you just needed to nova with all of them the last fight, and this at least gives you something to work with for the next.

[sblock=Battle Master Maneuvers]
Some maneuvers can be only done with a melee weapon, but most can be done with any weapon. The melee-only category will be split off for your convenience.

Melee-only:

  • Riposte: A reaction attack with SD damage against the very common trigger of the enemy missing you in melee. Needless to say, mandatory for all melee Battle Masters to fill up their action economy. If you take the Sentinel feat (and you really should), this will combine with it to practically guarantee a reaction attack.
  • Lunging Attack: Really, just don't bother.
  • Sweeping Attack: Collateral SD damage on a second enemy right next to the first one. Laughably weak attempt at crowd control.

Any:

  • Precision Attack: Keep dice on hand to turn narrow-ish misses into hits, when you need to the most. Good rule of thumb is to use this when you can reasonably guess or figure that you missed by no more than half the size of your SD (so by 4 or less before Lv. 10, 5 or less Lv. 10-17, 6 or less Lv. 18+).
  • Menacing Attack: As long as it's not immune to fear, frightening the enemy means it has disadvantage on all attacks. Step back out of its melee range and position yourself in front of the party and that enemy won't be able to do much effectively that round.
  • Trip Attack: Only works on Large or smaller, but that'll still be a lot of enemies. Proned enemy means advantage for everyone in melee range. If you're ranged yourself, but in a party with a lot of melee, otherwise, this is still a great finisher for the last attack on your turn. Also a godsend for ranged against flying enemies, as knocking them prone will make them crash to the earth. Becomes less necessary for Shield Masters depending on how your DM rules that feat or interprets the Sage Advice related to that feat.
  • Disarming Attack: Obviously terrific against enemies who use weapons. Disarm them, then use your free object interaction that round to pick up their weapon if you have a free hand, or kick it toward one of your allies (or off the cliff, or into the lake) if you don't. A lot of monsters don't use weapons you can disarm, which is why this isn't quite as high-priority as the maneuvers ranked higher.
  • Evasive Footwork: Used to increase your AC against Opportunity Attacks in case you either need to step back from an adversary, or you want to barge through the enemy front line to get to a back-line foe in melee. This makes for a good battlefield mobility boost.
  • Maneuvering Attack: Lots of nice uses for this one. Let the Wizard get the hell away from melee enemies, let archers do the same. Or use it to bring a melee Rogue into range and set them up for some stabbing action.
  • Pushing Attack: This one's especially good for archers. It can possibly buy them another round before the enemy closes into melee range. Still pretty good for melee, allowing them to shove an enemy away and move without drawing an Opportunity Attack. Also pretty nice combined with Sentinel’s punishment attack, which can negate an enemy’s attack outright by shoving them out of range. And then there’s the matter of a nearby cliff ....
  • Goading Attack: The designated "Defender" maneuver. Menacing and Trip are strictly better if the enemy isn't both (a) immune to fear, and (b) Huge or bigger. Not a high priority at lower levels. You'll have a better chance to face enemies for whom both of the above are true past Lv. 10 or so, so it'll be worth considering then.
  • Parry: Can be done with a ranged weapon, believe it or not, but only works against enemy melee hits. Only worth considering if going DEX; STR-Fighters should ignore. DEX-melees who later take Defensive Duelist should retrain out of this. Multiclassing 5 Rogue levels also obsoletes this due to Uncanny Dodge.
  • Rally: "Warlord" maneuver. This one requires investment in Charisma to give enough temporary hit points to be worth taking. Warlord-ish Battle Masters, or "Rally Masters," aiming for this one might as well take the Inspiring Leader feat, then use this maneuver to resupply someone's temp HPs once the ones from Inspiring Leader are beaten away.
  • Commander's Strike: Meant to be THE "Warlord" maneuver. Instead, it's THE reason why trying to make a "Warlord" as you knew it in 4e using the Battle Master archetype isn't very feasible. The action economy from this maneuver is VERY costly, giving up one of your attacks AND your bonus action. Basically, only a Rogue will give you any consistent net damage gain from using this. Can occasionally be worth using on a Paladin, but only if they're willing and able to Divine Smite on the attack. Don't even bother using this on anyone else.
  • Distracting Strike: Advantage to the next attack from an ally. Only really worth using to set up a Rogue, and whether you can do that relies on initiative; i.e. the Rogue needs to go right after you in the order. As you can imagine, that's rather finicky, making this maneuver pretty situational. Better if you're in a party where the Rogue is consistently Hasted, and can thus attack on turn with the Hasted action, and then Ready their regular action for right after you use this.
  • Feinting Attack: The bonus action for advantage must be done in melee, but the attack can be done with a ranged weapon. Regardless, not really worthwhile for single-class Fighters, since the advantage applies to just one attack. MUCH better for Rogues with Fighter levels.
[/sblock]

Eldritch Knight: The classic AD&D Fighter/Mage, folded into an archetype. It's one of several avenues in 5e toward what is commonly referred to as a "gish" build, or a build capable of both casting and fighting, and the most purely combat-focused of said avenues.

  • Spellcasting: Lv. 3. You are a 1/3 caster, and you learn a set number of cantrips and spells from the Wizard list similar to how the Sorcerer, Bard and Warlock learn them. Most of your spells are limited to just two schools, the defensive Abjuration and the offensive Evocation, though you get a pick from any school at Lv. 3, 8, 14 and 20. Despite the limitations, this spellcasting will still let you do things other Fighters can only shake their heads at.
  • Weapon Bond: Lv. 3. Actually a little better than mere fluff. If you have to drop your weapon somewhere and already used your free item interaction that round, using a bonus action to teleport it back in your hands is better for the action economy.
  • War Magic: Lv. 7. Amazing with the advent of the SCAG cantrips like Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade. Booming Blade + attack with anything short of Great Weapon Master does more single-target damage than the typical 3-attack routine past Lv. 11, actually. (Though if you Action Surge, you'll still want to use the 3 attacks for that extra action.) Great Weapon Masters won't use this as consistently, but certain situations can still call for it.
  • Eldritch Strike: Lv. 10. Disadvantage on spell save up until the end of your next turn after hitting them with an attack. Only useful for EKs who actually care about their INT score.
  • Arcane Charge: Lv. 15. Free teleportation right before an Action Surge nova, woo! A good boost to mobility to get to the enemy you want to tear up.
  • Improved War Magic: Lv. 18. Now you get the bonus-action attack after any spell you cast. Great for, say, still getting two attacks in the same round you Haste yourself.

[sblock=Eldritch Knight Spellcasting]
This guide won't go in depth into all of the EK spells, because there are existing guides that already do that here and here. The Wizard guide is a good resource on those, too.

But generally speaking, EKs fall into two broad types: Those who actually do boost their Intelligence and use their Evocation spells with a DC, and those who ignore their INT scores and instead use their spells for buffing and defense.

A few general EK spell pointers, however:

  • For melee EKs, Booming Blade (SCAG) is obviously mandatory and does not need INT.
  • Melee EKs with high INT will also like Green-Flame Blade (SCAG) a lot.
  • EKs with high INT will want at least one ranged cantrip (I'm partial to Fire Bolt and/or Ray of Frost). Ranged EKs can even use War Magic for a cantrip + ranged attack combo.
  • If you have a high INT, Minor Illusion is fantastic.
  • Blade Ward and True Strike are traps and should be avoided like the plague.
  • Shield and Absorb Elements (EEPC/XGTE) are every EK's mandatory picks as 1st-level spells, and neither of them require INT. If you're sword-and-board, you need War Caster to actually cast them, which is why that feat is mandatory for sword-and-board EKs. It'll sure be well worth it when you can use your reaction for flat-out resistance to an instance of elemental damage, or to get AC 25 (full plate + actual shield + Shield spell) for a full round.
  • Your free-school 1st-level spell should be Find Familiar, period. No reason to pick anything else. Familiars are a reliable source of advantage in combat and make terrific scouts in exploration.
  • Your free-school 2nd-level spell pick at Lv. 8 should go either to Mirror Image or Misty Step if you're low on INT. Those are good even if you have a high INT, but in that case Blindness/Deafness is also a great option.
  • 3rd-level spells if you have a high INT: Take a good look at Melf's Minute Meteors (EEPC/XGTE). Aside from that, there's always good ol' Fireball. You might also get Counterspell to work for you.
  • 3rd-level spells if your INT is low: Well ... there's always Leomund's Tiny Hut.
  • Free-school 3rd-level pick at Lv. 14: Haste is always great for anyone. Or you may prefer Fly. Neither need INT.
  • 4th-level spells: Fire Shield doesn't need INT, gives you resistance to fire or cold, doesn't use Concentration, and inflicts damage against melee attackers. If you DO have the INT, Storm Sphere or Wall of Fire is quite nice.
  • Free-school 4th-level pick at Lv. 20: Greater Invisibility is always awesome. Cast it on the Rogue for even more laughs. If you actually DO have the INT, Polymorph is cheesy, busted and fun.
[/sblock]

Purple Dragon Knight/Banneret (SCAG): I really want to rate this lower, because the design decisions concerning this Warlord-ish archetype are some real headscratchers. But for all its faults, even in single combat it's not much worse than the Champion, and within several common party compositions it's a good deal more effective (though never quite matching the Battle Master or Eldritch Knight).

  • Rallying Cry: Lv. 3. Heals up to 3 allies your Fighter level when you Second Wind. Starts off pretty weak, but actually scales pretty well; compares favorably to a Mass Healing Word spell (another bonus-action heal) at Lv. 10. Which leads to my opinion that this should've been the PDK's Lv. 10 feature, instead of its Lv. 3.
  • Royal Envoy: Lv. 7. Effectively Expertise in Persuasion. You get that skill proficiency, too, if you didn't have it before; and if you did, you get a choice that should go to Insight if you didn't have it already. Intimidation, Animal Handling and Performance are also possible choices. This is one of the few existing ways for a Fighter to be an effective party face, and why a PDK should also have at least enough CHA for Inspiring Leader.
  • Inspiring Surge: Lv. 10, 18. This really, really, really, really, REALLY should've been the PDK's Lv. 3 feature. Would've made a lot more sense to make this the archetype's so-called signature ability, and it would've made it a lot more effective at the start. This lets an ally get in on the action when you nova with Action Surge, and unlike the Battle Master's Commander's Strike, this does not cost you any attacks or bonus action to use, making this infinitely better than that lousy maneuver. It's especially good with a Rogue, Paladin or Barbarian ally. At Lv. 18 (not 17, this was errata-ed), two allies get to join in.
  • Bulwark: Lv. 15. Extends Indomitable on a mental save (which will usually be WIS) to an ally suffering the same effect as you. Unfortunately, it's much more restrictive than it needed to be. You can't use this feature against incapacitating effects ... which are the types of effects you are most likely to use Indomitable against.

Arcane Archer (XGTE): Despite the strong magical overtone of this archetype, you don’t get any spells (aside from a cantrip at the start). What you do get are Arcane Shots that you can use on a short-rest basis. Those shots all have their DCs based on INTELLIGENCE, which means that is an important secondary stat for you, no exceptions. This means you’re more MAD than most other Fighters. Also, you’re limited to the longbow or shortbow with this archetype, so no Crossbow Expert for you. The structure of this archetype sort of mirrors the Battle Master, right down to its short-rest dependency (and it suffers a lot more from that than the BM does, too). Still, some of the Arcane Shot options are quite useful, and you get a decent amount of them as you level (but unfortunately not more uses until very late).

  • Arcane Archer Lore: Lv. 3. Free Arcana or Nature skill (both INT-based, so you’ll be good at either one) and free cantrip of Prestidigitation or Druidcraft, either of which have their uses. Fair enough.
  • Arcane Shot: Lv. 3 (7,10,15,18). Pretty much the Arcane Archer’s equivalent of Combat Superiority. However, you’re forever limited to 2 uses of this per short rest, so you have to be a lot more conservative than the Battle Master does. You start with 2 Shot options initially and get a few more as you gain more levels (see above), eventually winding up with a decent amount.
  • Magic Arrow: Lv. 7. Good if you somehow don’t already have, or aren’t going to get, a magic bow. Redundant if you do have a magic bow. Fortunately, this isn’t the only feature you get at this level.
  • Curving Shot: Lv. 7. If you miss one enemy with an arrow attack, you get to attack a second enemy with that same arrow. Not overly powerful, but neat.
  • Ever-Ready Shot: Lv. 15. Regain a use of Arcane Shot if you don’t have any at the start of every combat. Considering that’s a regain of half of what you get back from a short rest, this is proportionally a more beneficial recharge than the Battle Master’s Relentless. Too bad this comes late; getting this feature at an earlier level would've really helped this subclass' overall effectiveness.

[sblock=Arcane Shots]
Note that at 18th level your Arcane Shots all get an upgrade (just more damage on most of them).

  • Banishing Arrow: Removing the right enemy from play for its next full turn can make a battle go more smoothly. Tests an enemy’s CHA save, so you’ll succeed with this more often than not.
  • Beguiling Arrow: Makes one of your allies charm the enemy you hit, which can be useful if that ally needs to heal up and/or run away. This one has more of a defender-type purpose.
  • Bursting Arrow: Blech. Weak AoE, both damage-wise and area-wise.
  • Enfeebling Arrow: Weakens the enemy until the start of your next turn, cutting its weapon damage in half. It’s a CON save for the weakening, though. Most monsters with weapon attacks worth worrying about tend to have pretty high CON saves, so this isn’t as reliable as it should’ve been.
  • Grasping Arrow: This one’s great. It should definitely be one of your initial picks. Does good initial damage (albeit poison damage), slows the target, does more damage (slashing) if it moves (apparently even forced movement works for that), and either the target or one of its lackeys has to waste an action and make an Athletics check to end it. If it can’t teleport, it’s in for a world of hurt, or at the very least a loss of a turn.
  • Piercing Arrow: The effect sounds cool, but just how many times are you going to have several enemies lined up all in a row in the path of this thing? Not very often.
  • Seeking Arrow: Your form of “divination,” basically. Occasionally useful, but pretty low priority.
  • Shadow Arrow: Another strong candidate for your initial picks. Blinds the enemy you hit beyond 5 feet, and it attacks the WIS save, which is a good one to attack on many monsters. If you get an enemy with this early in your Attack action, you can have advantage on the rest of your ranged attacks that turn. And give a turn of advantage to any of your ranged allies, too!
[/sblock]

Cavalier (XGTE): This archetype is the strongest attempt yet at recreating a 4e-style defender with the Fighter class. For the most part, it does a solid job at hampering enemies on the front line. It’s also got some features related to mounted combat that are just added bonuses in the event those happen to be useful. Note that you really need to be STR-based to make the most of this archetype’s abilities, and you also want a good CON, maybe even a bit higher than other archetypes aim for.

  • Bonus Proficiency: Lv. 3. Either an extra language or an extra skill proficiency from the given list. If going with the skill, I’d recommend Insight. Maybe Persuasion if you have an above-average CHA for some reason. Or Animal Handling if in a campaign conducive to being mounted.
  • Born to the Saddle: Lv. 3. The mount-specific feature. Good benefits if you’re in a situation to take advantage of them, otherwise it’s a ribbon. The Cavalier gets three class features at Lv. 3, the most of any Fighter archetype so far, making it obvious this is indeed a ribbon.
  • Unwavering Mark: Lv. 3. The hallmark is definitely the disadvantage on enemy attacks vs. your allies that you impose when you hit them and keep within 5 feet of them. And then there’s the bonus-action attack you get on your next turn when the enemy is foolish enough to hurt one of your allies. That latter ability is limited to your STR-mod number of times per long rest, which is why Cavaliers really need to be STR-Fighters. Note this is also, in fact, not redundant with the Sentinel feat, since the attack from that uses your reaction.
  • Warding Maneuver: Lv. 7. Reaction, +1d8 to AC vs. one attack that can protect either you or anyone next to you. That anyone next to you can be your mount, by the way. Even if the attack still hits, its damage is cut in half. Number of uses per long rest is governed by your CON-mod, which is why you want a good CON as a Cavalier. Handy to have around.
  • Hold the Line: Lv. 10. Normally, an enemy can move around you freely within your reach, but draws an opportunity attack once it tries to leave. This lovely feature prevents that enemy from even moving around in your reach without getting punished and stopped in its tracks for it. Combine with Sentinel’s ability to OA vs. Disengage for even more fun.
  • Ferocious Charger: Lv. 15. DC is based on STR only, another reason Cavaliers need to be STR-based. Amazingly, this can be used with a throwing weapon, as well as the typical melee charge. And best of all, there’s NO SIZE LIMITATION to the enemy you can knock prone with this. So feel free to move 10 feet in a straight line before chucking a javelin at that Gargantuan flying dragon to send it crashing to the ground.
  • Vigilant Defender: Lv. 18. Basically, Combat Reflexes if you’re a 3e veteran. Also known as the way opportunity attacks worked in 4e. You can make OAs against everyone and anyone who triggers them in your reach. Combined with Hold the Line and Sentinel, you’re now a full wall up front.

Samurai (XGTE): The simplest of the XGTE archetypes, it’s not that much more complex than the Champion. But it’s far, far more effective on offense. Narrow cultural trappings of the archetype’s name aside, this is, in many ways, the effective simple Fighter the Champion wishes it was. Works for all basic builds of Fighter, STR- or DEX-based, ranged or melee alike.

  • Bonus Proficiency: Lv. 3. Either an extra language or an extra skill proficiency. If going with the skill, take either Insight or Persuasion. if going with Persuasion, there’s a feature four levels later that will help you with use of that skill.
  • Fighting Spirit: Lv. 3. The Samurai’s cornerstone combat ability. Bonus action to give you straight-up advantage on attacks for the rest of your turn, along with some level-scaling temporary hit points. You get 3 uses of this per long rest — which coincidentally is the exact number of times you can expect to use Action Surge on a typical adventuring day. Which, obviously, means you should save uses of this for your Action Surge turns to get the most out of it.
  • Elegant Courtier: Lv. 7. Free WIS-save proficiency, which means you don’t have to burn a feat on Resilient (WIS)! Woohoo! If you somehow already had WIS proficiency, you get INT or CHA instead. Also, you now get to add your WIS mod to Persuasion checks, which means you can actually be a viable party face with Persuasion proficiency, decent WIS and a non-negative CHA. Also nice.
  • Tireless Spirit: Lv. 10. Now you’re in business. You regain Fighting Spirit at the start of every battle now, so you’ll be using it every battle. A massive boost to your offense.
  • Rapid Strike: Lv. 15. Give up advantage on one of your attacks during your Attack action to make two attacks without advantage in its place. Mathematically, it’s always a good idea to do this when you have the opportunity, since rolling twice for two attacks’ worth of damage > rolling twice for one attack’s worth. Note that you cannot use this feature twice on your turn if you Action Surged, which holds it back slightly.
  • Strength before Death: Lv. 18. Once per long rest, take an entire extra turn when you get knocked down to 0 hit points. Either use it as an opportunity to heal up, or go full-on Last Samurai and slice up some more enemies on your way to death. Suitably epic when it happens.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
IV. Races


[sblock=Common races]

Dwarf: One of the prototypical Fighter races definitely does the job this time around. All get +2 CON, Darkvision and advantage against and resistance to poison. Stick to axes and hammers; we don't need those mamby-pamby swords.

  • Mountain: +2 STR makes this the obvious choice for a STR-Fighter. On top of the standard-issue +2 CON, it's among the best in 5e.
  • Hill: +1 WIS and effectively the next CON modifier up in terms of hit points. Pretty solid for a Dwarf who wants to attempt a DEX build, but STR-Fighters should stick to Mountain.
  • Duergar (SCAG/MTOF): +1 STR; Superior Darkvision; advantage against illusions, charms and paralysis; free Enlarge/Reduce and Invisibility. Would be absolutely supreme if Sunlight Sensitivity weren't such a pain.

Elf: +2 DEX for all subraces, which should clue you in on which path to go. Gets Darkvision, advantage against charm and immunity to sleep.

  • High: +1 INT, and a free Wizard cantrip. Terrific for an Arcane Archer or DEX/INT Eldritch Knight. For others, they can still get a useful stat-independent cantrip of some sort, but Half-Elf of High Lineage is better for that.
  • Wood: +1 WIS is more useful for Fighters, and the extra speed is great. Mask of the Wild is of iffy benefit post-errata, though, since anyone can hide if the enemy can't see you clearly, and lightly obscured would appear to satisfy that condition for everyone now.
  • Drow: +1 CHA is meh, barring a Rally Master or PDK you won't put Drow Magic to good use, and Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain.
  • Eladrin (MTOF): +1 CHA (meh), and a 1/short rest teleport power in Fey Step with a side effect that varies depending on the season you’re in. You’ll want to stick to Spring, most likely, because it has the only benefit that doesn’t rely on your CHA and it can be pretty useful.
  • Sea (MTOF): +1 CON is good, certainly, but swimming speed and water breathing are obviously circumstantial. Obviously much better in a marine-based campaign.
  • Shadar-kai (MTOF): Now this one’s great. +1 CON, necrotic resistance and a 1/short rest teleport like the Eladrin, but with a very useful side effect of resistance to all damage.

Halfling: +2 DEX and small size limit you pretty much to finesse weapons, shortbows and crossbows. Lucky protecting against natural 1s is nice, though. Slow speed hurts.

  • Lightfoot: +1 CHA and hiding behind Medium people. Much better for Rogues than Fighters.
  • Stout: +1 CON and stealing the Dwarf's resistance and advantage against poison. Better for Fighters.
  • Ghostwise (SCAG): +1 WIS is OK, and telepathy.

Human: Meant to be the most versatile race. One particular Variant delivers on that promise.

  • Default/Stock: With many Fighters having at least 2, if not 3 outright dump stats, that's as many +1s that will go to waste.
  • Variant: Nothing wasted with the Variant, though. Two +1s right where you want them, an extra feat at Lv. 1 to give you a head start on a build that otherwise wouldn't start taking shape until Lv. 4, and a free pick of a skill proficiency. If only you had Darkvision, but I guess you can't have everything.
[/sblock]

[sblock=Uncommon races]

Aaracocra (EEPC): At-will flight is always going to count for a lot, even with its light armor restriction. It can be campaign-breaking, potentially. +2 DEX and +1 WIS make it perfect for aerial archers, in particular. The introductory paragraph pretty much leaves it up to the DM whether or not to even allow you to play this race, and for good reason. Just don't end your turns flying, or you'll risk crashing to the ground.

Dragonborn: +2 STR, +1 CHA. With a good CON as you're likely to have, Breath Weapon will be a viable anti-horde tool for you.

Genasi (EEPC): All Genasi get a +2 to CON, a solid stat bonus for all characters. All subraces get a 1/day free spell with no material components.

  • Air: +1 DEX, hold your breath forever as long as you’re not incapacitated, and Levitate as the racial spell. Pretty nice.
  • Earth: +1 STR, ignore some difficult terrain, and the very useful Pass Without Trace as the racial spell. Good.
  • Fire: +1 INT is a waste. making this the worst subrace for most Fighters. Darkvision and fire resistance aren’t bad, though.
  • Water: +1 WIS has its uses, and breathing air and water and having a real swim speed can come in handy in campaigns with a lot of water.

Gith (MTOF): All Gith get a +1 to INT, which means they're good for Arcane Archers and Eldritch Knights who plan to raise their INT score. Not so much for anyone else, though.

  • Githyanki: The word "gish" that is now used ubiquitously to denote any build that can both cast and fight has its very roots with this subrace. And, sure enough, Githyanki make arguably the best STR/INT Eldritch Knights with their +2 to STR on top of the standard Gith INT bonus. Free skill (or tool) proficiency, free language, free invisible Mage Hand, and 1/long rest component-less castings of Jump and Misty Step round it out.
  • Githzerai: +2 WIS isn't as good as an attack stat bonus but still OK. Advantage on saves against charmed and frightened is pretty good, and you still get the same invisible Mage Hand that the Githyanki gets. Makes a decent Arcane Archer or DEX/INT Eldritch Knight, but STR/INT EKs should stick with the Githyanki.

Gnome: Basically, unless you're going to be an Arcane Archer or DEX/INT Eldritch Knight, don't bother. Advantage on mental saves is about the only thing Gnomes have going in general, but even that's not enough to make up for otherwise incompatible stat bonuses (+2 INT), small size and slow speed.

  • Forest: +1 DEX, Minor Illusion and a cute speak with animals ability. Makes a passable Arcane Archer or DEX/INT Eldritch Knight, and that's it.
  • Rock: +1 CON would be OK, but then you're left with no other bonus to an attack stat, as well as the worthless general Gnome INT bonus. Tech knowledge doesn't make up for that fact. Pass.
  • Deep (SCAG/MTOF): +1 DEX, Superior Darkvision and advantage on Stealth in stony terrain. Like Forest, a workable Arcane Archer or DEX/INT EK, but nothing more.

Half-Elf: +2 CHA, and then two +1s wherever else you want them. Also Darkvision, the sleep immunity and advantage vs. charms that Elves get, and another potentially strong benefit. Good race overall, even better for the builds that actually benefit from CHA.

  • Skill Versatility (PHB default): The default Half-Elf gets two skills of their choice. Overall, this is the can’t-go-wrong option and still the best pick for most builds.
  • Keen Senses (SCAG): Obviously, whoever wrote the sidebar in the SCAG completely forgot that Skill Versatility gives you proficiency in two skills when they listed this as an option. You LITERALLY lose an entire skill taking this, for absolutely nothing in return. So never, and I mean NEVER take this.
  • Wood Elf Descent (SCAG): Post-errata, you'll take Fleet of Foot for the extra speed, which is nice.
  • Moon/Sun (High) Elf Descent (SCAG): The best part of the High Elf, the free cantrip. A good way for STR-based EKs to add one more cantrip to their arsenals while benefiting from the Half-Elf's opportunity to pick more relevant stats. The cantrip is still a Wizard cantrip that keys off INT, so if you aren't boosting that stat try picking something stat-independent, there's some good ones in that category still.
  • Drow Descent (SCAG): Good if you plan to have enough CHA to make Drow Magic a viable tool. Otherwise, you should likely pass on it.
  • Aquatic Descent (SCAG): 30-foot swim speed. Obviously better in a campaign that involves sea travel, but too situational otherwise compared to Skill Versatility or other lineages.

Half-Orc: +2 STR, +1 CON, Darkvision, deadlier crits, avoid a KO once a day and free Intimidation proficiency. Doesn't get much better for STR-Fighters.

Tiefling: The SCAG variants make this race more attractive to DEX-Fighters, in particular.

  • Feral (SCAG): +2 DEX is better than +2 CHA in every way for a Fighter.
  • Infernal Legacy (PHB default): CHA-based spells you likely won't be good at. Note that this, Devil's Tongue, Hellfire, and Winged are all mutually exclusive.
  • Devil's Tongue (SCAG): CHA-based spells you likely won't be good at.
  • Hellfire (SCAG): CHA-based spells you likely won't be good at.
  • Winged (SCAG): Wings and a 30-foot flying speed instead of Infernal Legacy’s spells. Post-errata does NOT work with heavy armor anymore (but still does with medium, unlike the Aaracocra). Still great for DEX-Fighters, in particular, or even any Fighters with at least some DEX bonus. As usual with a potentially campaign-breaking at-will flight option, consult your DM.
  • All MTOF variants: All keep the default +2 CHA bonus, and they all involve spells you won’t have the CHA to put to good use.
[/sblock]

[sblock=Volo's Guide Races]

Aasimar: Reimagined and substantially buffed from its debut in the DMG as what was essentially a Tiefling variant. It’s basically for anyone who wants a little Paladin in their build without multiclassing. Comes with a scaled-back Lay on Hands-type ability, Darkvision, resistance to necrotic and radiant damage, and free Light cantrip. Despite the useless-for-most-Fighters +2 CHA, this race's abilities are strong enough to make this race at least decent as a Fighter.

  • Protector: +1 WIS (never a waste), and the long-rest recharge power gives you flight plus some nifty extra radiant damage on one hit on each of your turns.
  • Scourge: +1 CON is welcome for everyone. Long-rest recharge power auto-damages everyone (including yourself and allies, so be careful) within 10 feet and also lets you deal extra radiant damage on a hit on each of your turns.
  • Fallen: This explicitly Evil subrace gives +1 STR, so definitely good for STR-Fighters. The power is a mass frighten within 10 feet (again, not ally-friendly) with additional necrotic damage on one hit on each of your turns.

Firbolg: Stat bonuses in good places, +2 WIS and +1 STR, along with various stealthy magical abilities and the ability to carry and lift heavy weights. An interesting and potentially effective Fighter.

Goliath: +2 STR and +1 CON, automatic Athletics proficiency, reduce damage taken once per short rest, and ability to carry and lift heavy weights. Definitely tops for a STR-Fighter.

Kenku: +2 DEX and +1 WIS, with racial abilities more suited to Rogues than anything else. Eh.

Lizardfolk: +2 CON, +1 WIS, a bite that means you’re always armed, swim speed, hold breath for a long time, natural armor that’s better than the standard light armor, 2 free skills from a list that includes the all-important Perception and Stealth, and a short-rest recharge bonus-action attack. Pretty decent, particularly for DEX-Fighters.

Tabaxi: +2 DEX and +1 CHA, plus Darkvision, an ability to move double your usual speed (which you must make up for later by not moving at all to recharge), climb speed, natural weapons, and free Perception and Stealth proficiency. Other than the CHA bonus, pretty good for DEX-Fighters.

Triton: +1 to STR, CON and CHA. Two of those stat bonuses are relevant. Aside from that, swim speed, breathe water and air, talk to water creatures, and cold resistance. Also note that of the three racial spells, only Gust of Wind actually uses your CHA for anything, so feel free to cast Fog Cloud or Wall of Water instead. Good all around.
[/sblock]

[sblock=Monster Races (VGM)]

Subject to DM approval, so consult with your DM first before playing one of these.

Bugbear: The highlight is the extra 5 feet of reach when you make a melee attack (but only on your turn). +2 STR and +1 DEX means it fits both STR- and DEX-Fighters. Also gets Darkvision, free Stealth proficiency and 2d6 extra damage when attacking from surprise. Good one, for sure.

Goblin: Small size, but 30 feet speed. +2 DEX and +1 CON, Darkvision, short-rest recharge extra damage against something bigger than you, and Disengage or Hide as a bonus action (effectively 2/3rd of the Rogue’s Cunning Action) make this quite nice for DEX-Fighters. Weave through enemy traffic with no fear of OAs if you're a DEX-melee, or shoot, move, Hide, repeat if you're an archer.

Hobgoblin: +2 CON, +1 INT (the latter’s a waste), Darkvision, and short-rest recharge power that lets you add up to +5 (or less depending on number of allies you have) to a failed attack, save or ability check. Decent.

Kobold: -2 STR penalty, but +2 DEX, so that's the route to go. And the advantage on any attack as long as an ally is next to your target is glorious for Sharpshooter/Crossbow Expert builds. In campaigns where Sunlight Sensitivity is less of an issue, a Kobold SS/CE build flat rocks.

Orc: +2 STR and +1 CON at the expense of -2 INT, which doesn’t hurt you too much since you don’t care about INT. Bonus-action movement of your full speed helps close to melee range quickly, always a plus for melee Fighters. Also get Darkvision and free Intimidation proficiency. Pretty solid, actually.

Yuan-ti Pureblood: A fantastic race for those classes that can take advantage of its talents, but unfortunately that's not you. Bonuses to two Fighter dump stats, and you're not likely to have the CHA regardless to put Suggestion or any of its other racial spells to good use.
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
V. Feats


With heavy reliance on just one stat (Strength or Dexterity), plus 2 more ASIs than most other classes, the Fighter is extremely flexible on feat selection after capping that STR or DEX at 20. The main exceptions there are Eldritch Knights who actually care about their INT and Arcane Archers, who will probably be limited to around 2 or 3 feats at best.

Crossbow Expert: Mandatory if you're using crossbows, especially hand crossbows. With hand crossbows, you get a bonus-action attack every round ... which just so happens to be another chance for Sharpshooter's damage bonus to happen. Ignoring loading means you can execute your full Extra Attacks with a crossbow, too. The damage can get outright obscene with this one. You also no longer suffer disadvantage for firing in the thick of melee, which applies on any ranged attacks, not just crossbows, also a tremendous benefit. Obviously, melees ignore.

Great Weapon Master: Mandatory for great weapon Fighters; obviously, don't bother otherwise. If you don't plan on taking this feat, you might as well just go sword-and-board. This feat makes up nearly all of the damage advantage using a great weapon has, thanks to the -5/+10 hit/damage trade. You're most likely to use that when you have advantage or have your attack rolls buffed via Bless or similar, in which case your damage goes through the roof. Bonus-action attacks on crits or death blows are also good against BBEGs and hordes alike.

Polearm Master: Mandatory if you’re going to use a polearm as a main weapon; no need to bother if you’re not. The butt-end attack adds your STR-modifier and makes for a better version of dual-wielding that’s compatible with Great Weapon Master’s hit/damage trade, and the opportunity attacks against enemies entering your reach makes this amazing when combined with Sentinel.

Resilient (WIS): Always at least a good idea, though your staple offensive feats and a 20 in your attack stat will likely be a higher priority early. But nasty things like stun, fear, charms, Suggestion, Hold and dominated will test your WIS save more and more as you gain levels. With the extra ASIs you get in your progression you really have no excuse not to take this some time in your teen levels, when those effects become more frequent and harder to save against. You’ll get a +1 WIS, too, so if you’re planning a Fighter for the long-term, you’ll want to start with an odd WIS score. Unless you’re a Samurai, who is lucky enough to get WIS-save proficiency for free and won’t need this feat.

Sentinel: Reminiscent of the 4e Fighter’s two main defender abilities, this one can make you very hard to escape. It’s especially deadly (and mandatory) in the hands of the melee Battle Master, who should’ve picked the Riposte maneuver as soon as it was available, all but guaranteeing an extra reaction attack against an enemy. If the Marking rule (DMG p. 271) is in effect, this becomes even better, and at Lv. 11 you get to mark more enemies than any other class. This also has fantastic synergy with Polearm Master, letting you stop enemies at reach with OAs. (Obviously, ranged Fighters ignore this one).

Sharpshooter: For ranged weapon Fighters, it's a matter of when, not if you're taking this. And ignoring any cover short of full may have you taking this before your first DEX bump. Nixing disadvantage at long range is nice, too. And then there's the infamous -5/+10 hit/damage trade, which Archery Fighting Style substantially mitigates the negative effect of. Woo. Obviously, don't take if you're melee.

Alert: +5 initiative is good for just about everyone. Getting in your Action Surge nova before an enemy gets to act is pretty nice. Can't be surprised is helpful, too.

Defensive Duelist: Only DEX-melees need apply, this one stands a really good chance at turning melee hits against you into misses once every round once your proficiency bonus is around +4 or better. Wouldn't take it before Lv. 8, though. Obviously STR-Fighters and archers ignore.

Heavy Armor Master: Fantastic at early levels (ESPECIALLY if a Variant Human takes it at Lv. 1). The damage reduction’s impact lessens somewhat as you get higher level, but it’s never a waste even then. You also get +1 STR.

Lucky: THE can't-go-wrong feat of the bunch when you can't think of anything else to take.

Magic Initiate: A good way for a non-Eldritch Knight to get a useful cantrip. Taking Warlock is appealing for a 1 per day casting of Hex, which adds d6s of damage to all hits and penalizes enemy ability checks. Or take Wizard for Find Familiar.

Shield Master: One of the more controversial feats recently. The newest Sage Advice isn’t perfectly clear, either, but it at least seems to allow for you to bonus-action shove after making one attack with your action (and thus committing to taking an Attack action), and then making your other attack(s) after. Which makes this pretty good from Lv. 5 onward, as you can at least get one attack with advantage after shoving prone. Becomes even better if your DM rules that you can shove before all your attacks as long as you declare you’re taking the Attack action. Becomes rather third-rate if your DM rules you can only shove after making all attacks of your Attack action. The two DEX-save benefits are pretty nice, too, but let’s face it, that’s not what you’re really here for.

War Caster: Mandatory for sword-and-board Eldritch Knights. They need this to bust out Shield and Absorb Elements fully armed and shielded. Not nearly a necessity for other EKs, though the advantage on concentration saves and ability to use Booming Blade on Opportunity Attacks will always be welcome.

Durable: OK if you need to round off an odd CON score. Hit Die minimum is nice, but not a priority.

Inspiring Leader: Someone in the party needs this feat. Most likely, that won't be you. Unless you're a "Rally Master" or a PDK, then you might in fact be the one.

Mage Slayer: Good if you fight a lot of spellcasters, but prioritize other feats first.

Mobile: Extra speed and free disengagement from enemies you attack. Decent.

Mounted Combatant: Worth a pick if you're in a war campaign or any other campaign conducive to mounted combat. Taking all hits aimed against your mount is good in that case since you don't have anything like the Paladin's Find Steed spell to easily replace your mount if it gets whacked. Evasion for the mount and advantage against Medium and smaller are also great.

Ritual Caster: Even the Fighters who aren’t one of the INT-subclasses will possibly have a 13 WIS to qualify. This feat is one of the better ways to add some out-of-combat utility to the Fighter.

Skilled: Well, if you want more out-of-combat utility, here you go. You certainly have the ASIs to spare for it. I'd recommend spending all three picks on skills, since tool proficiencies can be trained during downtime but skills can't.

Tavern Brawler: Another path besides Shield Master for grapplers to get a useful bonus action. Your unarmed strikes are at least a factor now in dealing damage, you get to grapple for a bonus action after if you hit with an unarmed attack or improvised weapon, and you don’t have to deal with any fiddly shield dropping and weapon drawing in your grapple routine. You also get +1 STR or CON, always nice.

Dual-Wielder: +1 to AC when dual-wielding ... but dual-wielding is weak for single-class Fighters. Might be worth it if multiclassing Rogue, in which case using 2 rapiers, or rapier + dagger might be appealing.

Healer: Good healing with a kit, but best left to a Thief with the Fast Hands ability.

Martial Adept: One more Superiority Die alone isn't worth a whole feat for Battle Masters. Most BMs will also wind up with more maneuvers than they know what to do with, so two more are diminishing returns. And non-BMs shouldn't bother; one d6 SD per short rest is weaksauce.

Observant: Bonus to passive Perception and Investigation are probably more of a Rogue thing. Also +1 to WIS or INT.

Spell Sniper: Only relevant application: War Caster + Polearm Master + glaive/halberd + Booming Blade. This extends Booming Blade to a 10-foot reach and forces the approaching enemy to take the extra damage in the process when finishing their move from 10 feet to 5 away from you. The rest of this feat means nothing to you, so consider if that application is worth it alone.

Tough: ONLY take at all if you already maxed out CON at 20. Not before.

Athlete: +1 STR or DEX and a few benefits you don’t really need. Pass.

Actor: +1 CHA if you care. You’re not a Bard and Deception and Performance are likely not your thing. Pass.

Charger: Beyond useless. Next.

Dungeon Delver: Leave the trapfinding and trap handling to the Rogue.

Elemental Adept: You’re not a Wizard or Sorcerer (and it’s not all that great for them, either).

Grappler: Useless even for characters who actually grapple. Grapple + shove accomplishes everything this feat does but better. Pin is beyond worthless as written.

Heavily Armored/Lightly Armored/Moderately Armored/Weapon Master
: You’re already proficient in all armor, shields, and weapons.

Keen Mind: Boosts a dump stat with marginal benefits attached.

Linguist: +1 INT, three languages and a secret writing code. Whatever.

Medium Armor Master: A DEX-Fighter could get 1 more AC with this feat than from studded leather, but that’s hardly worth an entire feat.

Savage Attacker: Damage reroll only applies to weapon dice, so no Superiority Dice or Booming Blade benefits. And it's just once a turn regardless. Weaksauce.

Skulker: The first benefit post-errata is of questionable worth even for DEX-Fighters who care about Stealth. And the rest of it is isn’t much better.



Racial Feats (XGTE)

A new concept introduced with the XGTE, Racial Feats can only be taken by characters of a certain race. To be honest, only a few of these are really worth taking in general on their own merits (though many of them come with a +1 to an ability score that may be useful for rounding out your stats at even numbers).

Elven Accuracy (Elf or Half-Elf): Incredible for DEX-Fighters (STR-Fighters need not apply), particularly those who can manufacture their own advantage (e.g. Battle Masters with Trip Attack, Eldritch Knights with familiars, Samurai). It gives you a sort of “super advantage” when you have advantage on attacks with DEX. You also get +1 to DEX (or WIS, INT or CHA).

Prodigy (Human or Half-Elf or Half-Orc): Free skill proficiency, tool proficiency, language and, the best part, Expertise of one skill. Can actually be a worthwhile pick, particularly Expertising Athletics for grapplers and Shield Masters so their craft can be that much more irresistible.

Bountiful Luck (Halfling): Basically extend your Lucky trait to an ally. Eh.

Dragon Fear (Dragonborn): You probably won’t have the CHA to put this to good use. At least you get +1 STR, CON or CHA.

Dragon Hide (Dragonborn): Natural armor and natural weapons for unarmed strikes. Typically not worth it, but at least you get +1 STR, CON or CHA.

Drow High Magic (Drow): Detect Magic at will and Levitate and Dispel Magic (CHA-based) with 1/day slotless casting. Still not really worth a feat.

Dwarven Fortitude (Dwarf): +1 CON, and a modicum of healing attached to your Hit Dice and Dodge action. Hardly a staple, but if you need to even out CON at late levels, it’s there.

Fade Away (Gnome): DEX-based Gnome EKs may appreciate the +1 to DEX or INT, with a decent but hardly staple invisibility reaction.

Fey Teleportation (High Elf): Misty Step 1/short rest, and also +1 CHA or INT and extra language. One of the better racial feats, but still not your thing.

Infernal Constitution (Tiefling): Resistance to cold and poison damage and advantage on saves vs. poison. Still not really worth a precious feat slot. +1 CON, too, which is nice at least.

Orcish Fury (Half-Orc): 1/short rest modest damage boost and a highly conditional extra attack when you’re about to get KO-ed but use Relentless Endurance. Again, hardly a staple ability, but at least it also comes with +1 STR or CON.

Second Chance (Halfling): 1/short rest make an enemy reroll an attack against you when you get hit. Not enough by itself, but coming with +1 DEX, CON or CHA helps.

Squat Nimbleness (Dwarf or Small race): +1 STR or DEX, faster walking speed to match other races, free Athletics or Acrobatics proficiency and easier grapple escapes. Not really inspiring, but if you need to even out STR or DEX, you could do worse.

Wood Elf Magic (Wood Elf): Free Druid cantrip and Longstrider and Pass Without Trace as slotless casts 1/long rest. Eh.

Flames of Phlegethos (Tiefling): You don’t have that many quality fire spells, or fire spells at all. There's a glut of other +1 INT or CHA feats that are more worthwhile for you.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
VI. Equipment


The basics (STR-based):

  • Heavy armor (starting with chain at Lv. 1 typically, moving to plate as soon as can afford)
  • Shield (if going one-handed + shield)
  • Longsword, battleaxe or warhammer (if going one-handed + shield); glaive or halberd (if going Polearm Master); greatsword or maul (if going two-handed but not Polearm Master); 2 shortswords, scimitars or handaxes (if dual-wielding)
  • Javelins OR longbow
  • Arcane focus (if Eldritch Knight)


The basics (DEX-based):

  • Studded leather armor
  • Longbow
  • Hand crossbow (if Crossbow Expert)
  • Rapier
  • Shield
  • Arcane focus (if Eldritch Knight)


Noteworthy magic items

Remember that a character can only be attuned to three magic items at one time. If an item requires attunement, it will be noted, along with other important properties like rarity and types of armor/weapon.

Weapons:

  • Weapon +1/+2/+3: Uncommon/rare/very rare. In practice, the humble basic magic weapon will be your best option in a lot of cases. A weapon that gives a bonus to hit and damage will do more for your DPR figures than most other fancier magic weapons that do not have such bonuses (especially the hit bonus). That it doesn’t require attunement is an added plus.
  • Sunblade: Rare; Longsword; Attunement. It’s literally a lightsaber! It’s nominally a longsword, but it’s finesse, making it fair game for a DEX-attacker to use. +2 to hit and damage, plus 1d8 extra damage vs. undead.
Armor:

  • Shield +1/+2/+3: Uncommon/rare/very rare. More AC from your shield is good. Not requiring attunement is even better.
  • Armor +1/+2/+3: Rare/very rare/legendary; Any armor. The basic magic armor is as good as anything, straight plusses to AC being the most universally useful benefit. It doesn’t require attunement, either, leaving a slot open for something else.
  • Dwarven Plate: Very rare; Plate only. +2 to AC and reduction to forced movement, with no attunement required. Great if you get a set.

Belts:

  • Belt of Giant Strength: Rare/very rare/legendary; Attunement. Depending on the type of giant it’s based on, sets your STR from anywhere between 21 and 29. Definitely your overall preferred type of belt to wear, and should definitely be one of your three attuned items as soon as you get one. STR-Fighters who didn't yet max their STR at 20 might delay doing so in favor of a feat they really wanted. Melee DEX-Fighters can consider this a boost to their attack rolls and damage with a more expanded choice of weapons.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
VII. Multiclassing


Basics to remember:

  • You need to meet the attribute prerequisites of ALL your planned classes, including your initial class. So, to multiclass as a Fighter, you need either a STR 13 or DEX 13, plus a 13 in the prerequisite(s) of your new class.
  • Multiple instances of Extra Attack do not stack. Want three attacks? Take 11 Fighter levels. It’s the only way.
  • You do NOT get proficiency in heavy armor if you start as another class and multiclass into Fighter.
  • Ability Score Increases, and by extension feats, are considered class features at set levels like everything else. Which means in many cases, you may fall short of the five expected of most single-class characters’ progression. Sometimes being an ASI/feat short may be worth it, but more often it may not be. Being two or more ASI/feats short is almost never worth it. Consider the tradeoffs carefully, in any event.
  • You NEVER get the saving throw proficiencies of your new class. If you want another class’ save proficiencies to start, then you need to start as a member of that class.


Strive for 5:

A general look at all the classes will show you that the class’ 5th level is where a MASSIVE power jump occurs, particularly offensively. Warrior-type classes get their Extra Attack at that level. Full spellcaster classes get 3rd-level spells, the first real powerful level of spells. For Rogues, that’s when Sneak Attack really starts taking off. While all classes have their other major and significant levels, Lv. 5 is the first and most important of them all.

Ergo, if you’re going for a multiclass build of any sort, your first goal is to hit Lv. 5 in one class ASAP, likely your major. Pretty much without exception. Which means if you’re starting and majoring as a Fighter, you want to be a Fighter 5 and get Extra Attack before you even think of branching out.

If you started as Lv. 1 in another class for whatever reason (say you REALLY like that net gain of one skill from starting as a Rogue), then you need to take your next 5 levels in the Fighter class. Getting to Lv. 5 one level behind is probably tolerable, at worst you limit yourself to just one level of inadequacy. Falling two or more levels behind in that department, on the other hand, is a terrible idea.


Dipping out: What you lose

  • Lv. 20 Fighter vs. Lv. 1 dip: Your 4th attack. That's a very powerful capstone you're giving up, so you'd better make sure that what you're going for in your MC can make up for that. Eldritch Knights also lose their free pick of a 4th-level Wizard spell, also a pretty big deal.
  • Lv. 19 Fighter vs. Lv. 2 dip: Your last ASI/feat. Depending on what you're picking up that may or may not be worth it. Rogue's Cunning Action or Barbarian's Reckless Attack I'd definitely say is worth it, for example. Eldritch Knights also give up 4th-level spells, so they'll be more hesitant.
  • Lv. 18 Fighter vs. Lv. 3 dip: The final archetype feature. Champions will definitely hesitate to give up Survivor, and Improved War Magic is tough to sacrifice for an Eldritch Knight. A PDK will think twice about giving up a second ally's attack on Inspiring Surge, though it's not as difficult a choice. Battlemasters, on the other hand, won't mourn a Superiority Dice size bump much. Regardless of archetype, can still be worth the sacrifice if the dip results in a strong central concept (e.g. Assassinate from the Rogue, Bear Totem resistance from the Barbarian, Vow of Enmity from the Paladin).
  • Lv. 17 Fighter vs. Lv. 4 dip: This is a precious level for Fighters and one they won't want to give up easily, with its second Action Surge per short rest. That's probably worth more in most cases than the lost feat they'd recoup.
  • Lv. 16 Fighter vs. Lv. 5 dip: Fighters typically don't have much reason to dip just 5 levels in another class. (Only exceptions are the Bard's short-rest Bardic Inspiration recharge and Rogue's Uncanny Dodge.) Giving up an ASI/feat to do so isn't fruitful unless dipping further. Even worse for Eldritch Knights, who give up a known spell and a 3rd-level slot.
  • Lv. 15 Fighter vs. Lv. 6 dip: Archetype feature, none of which particularly stand out at this level. This one's not a bad level to give up, particularly if you really like another class' Lv. 6 feature.
  • Lv. 14 Fighter vs. Lv. 7 dip: An ASI/feat, one of the Fighter's two extras. That's a pretty big deal, so make sure your Lv. 7 dip is worth the sacrifice there. Eldritch Knights also give up a spell known.
  • Lv. 13 Fighter vs. Lv. 8 dip: One use of Indomitable. Easy sacrifice. Unless you're an Eldritch Knight, in which case you also lose 3rd-level spells, so EKs are highly reluctant here.
  • Lv. 12 Fighter vs. Lv. 9 dip: Another ASI/feat down, though if your 9 remaining levels are in one other class you're only down 1 overall. Depends on how good your other class' Lv. 9 is.


Multiclasses

Barbarian: Any STR-Fighter qualifies by default, and a Fighter with Great Weapon Master and an MC here results in some of the most unholy amounts of damage in the game. Just make sure to have at least some DEX (around 14 or so), since you won't be wearing heavy armor. (Rage's main benefits only work without heavy armor.)

  • Lv. 1: 2 Rages/day and CON-based Unarmored Defense in case you're caught naked. Not bad, but the real prizes are further into the class.
  • Lv. 2: Reckless Attack means advantage on every single one of your attacks. Just what the doctor ordered for Great Weapon Masters, and it'll easily result in more DPR than a straight Fighter 20. Just remember you also give up advantage on attacks to your enemies, so you'll really only want to use this consistantly when you're Raging, or otherwise if you just REALLY need to do damage that round.
  • Lv. 3: Bear Totem for resistance to ALL damage other than Psychic while Raging. (And fun fact: This resistance DOES work in heavy armor.) Your Rages/day also increase to 3.
  • Lv. 6: You're up to 4 Rages/day if you go this far, plus another Totem feature that's a constant benefit.

Bard: CHA 13 required to enter MC, but a much higher CHA required than that to actually use the Bard's best spells and abilities effectively. An Eldritch Knight, but increasing CHA instead of INT, can potentially make this work, however, so it's worth a mention. And, hey, you get an extra skill proficiency. If not an EK and not improving CHA, don't even think about a dip here.

  • Lv. 1: Assuming your CHA is caster-grade, Faerie Fire gets you some tasty advantage. And Dissonant Whispers can result in a flurry of Opportunity Attacks from the party. As for cantrips, Vicious Mockery gives you a ranged attack, and then there's the wonderful Minor Illusion.
  • Lv. 2: Jack of All Trades for the half-proficiency on all skill checks.
  • Lv. 3: Lore is the way to go; Valor does nothing for Fighters. Gets you three more skill proficiencies and the lovely Cutting Words (number of uses CHA-based). On top of that, Expertise in two skills.
  • Lv. 5: Bardic Inspiration (this means Cutting Words) becomes short-rest recharge.

Cleric: WIS 13 required. Some good stat-independent combat spells here for Eldritch Knights who want to dip. If not an EK, don't bother with just a dip.

  • Lv. 1: Bless is the thing for Eldritch Knights. If you go Life Domain, you even get it always on tap as a Domain Spell. As for Cantrips: Guidance for sure, then Light or Mending, I guess.

Druid: WIS 13 required. Not much to offer here, dip-wise, as far as spells and abilities go.

Monk: DEX 13 and WIS 13 required. Martial Arts requires you to be unarmored, and a dip won't give you enough Ki to do much of anything. Usually it's a Monk who will dip Fighter, rather than vice versa.

Paladin: STR 13 and CHA 13 required. Effective dip for an Eldritch Knight to use Divine Smite with their spell slots, and then go one more level for Oath of Vengeance. If not an EK, then don't bother with just a dip.

  • Lv. 1: Go further, or don't bother.
  • Lv. 2: Divine Smite, which Eldritch Knights can use with their spell slots for some extra nova punch. You also get another Fighting Style (likely Defense if you didn't take that before). Also, prepare Bless, use Bless.
  • Lv. 3: Vengeance is the way to go here for the Oath, Vow of Enmity being particularly sexy for its straight-up advantage against one boss enemy every short rest. (Great Weapon Masters especially will love it.) VoE is also stat-independent unlike many other Paladin Channel Divinities. Having Hunter's Mark as an Oath Spell on tap is also pretty nice.

Ranger: The class as a whole may be weak, but the first 3 levels of it are quite nice for a Fighter (especially an archer build) to dip into. Requires DEX 13 and WIS 13, and you get an extra skill for entering this class.

  • Lv. 1: Go further, or don't bother.
  • Lv. 2: You get spells, which in the case of this dip class means Hunter's Mark and then whatever else. Also another Fighting Style (again, likely Defense if you didn't get that before).
  • Lv. 3: Gloom Stalker (XGTE) for Dread Ambusher is the new hotness. It gets you an extra attack (with extra damage on that attack) as part of your Attack action your first turn of every combat. And here’s the even better part: That attack applies AGAIN when you Action Surge, literally doubling this benefit! A great way to get your third and/or fourth attack earlier than a straight Fighter would in what is usually the most important round of combat.

Rogue: Auto-qualification for a DEX-Fighter, and it's a natural fit. There's a case for starting as a Rogue instead of a Fighter. You lose CON-save proficiency and heavy armor proficiency, but you get a net gain of one more skill proficiency compared to starting as Fighter and going Rogue. YMMV on whether you’ll prefer that tradeoff.

  • Lv. 1: Expertise in two skills and the initial Sneak Attack bonus. Solid start.
  • Lv. 2: Cunning Action. Simply one of the best features in the game.
  • Lv. 3: Archetype plus a Sneak Attack boost. If you're willing to take the Alert feat and Expertised your Stealth, Assassin is obviously very good. (Assassinate + Action Surge + Battle Master Superiority Dice = Bloody Good Time.) Or there's Swashbuckler instead, which just about single-handedly redeems dual-wielding, letting you stay mobile even when attacking with two weapons and get Sneak Attacks in mano-a-mano combat. For Eldritch Knights specifically, Arcane Trickster can also be worthwhile as a dip for more cantrips, spells and spell slots.
  • Lv. 5: Uncanny Dodge to halve damage as a reaction. Also another Sneak Attack boost.

Sorcerer: CHA 13 required. A very attractive option for Eldritch Knights thanks to Metamagic, a top prize for any caster in general. Obviously, don't bother with just a dip if you're not an EK.

  • Lv. 1: Opportunity to take something terrific like Booming Blade, or if your CHA is actually caster-grade, even something like Green-Flame Blade or Minor Illusion. As for 1st-level spells: Shield, of course, then whatever else. As for Origin, Draconic if you're DEX-based, otherwise, doesn't matter for just a dip.
  • Lv. 2: Don't stop here. Go to Lv. 3, or don't bother.
  • Lv. 3: The obvious big prize of Metamagic. Take Quickened Spell and Twinned Spell.

Warlock: CHA 13 required. The one spellcaster class that's actually an effective dip option for Fighters that aren't Eldritch Knights, thanks to short-rest recharge spell slots and some nice passive abilities.

  • Lv. 1: 1st-level spell: Get Hex, use Hex. If you have a caster-grade CHA, then more options open up, especially with the cantrips like Eldritch Blast and Minor Illusion, and if an EK, Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade.
  • Lv. 2: Your first invocations. Devil's Sight is a must. You also get 2 spell slots/short rest.
  • Lv. 3: Pact Boon. Pact of the Chain gets you a familiar. Also 2nd-level spells; Mirror Image, Invisibility and Misty Step are on the list, and if you have a high enough CHA, Suggestion is there for you, too.

Wizard: INT 13 required, the natural fit for an Eldritch Knight looking to multiclass. Again, if not an EK, don't bother with just a dip.

  • Lv. 1: You know the drill. Booming Blade, Green-Flame Blade. If INT is caster-grade, Minor Illusion and one of those long-distance attack cantrips like Fire Bolt. 1st-level spells: Find Familiar, Shield.
  • Lv. 2: Arcane Tradition. Divination's Lv. 2 feature is particularly awesome. Or go Bladesinger if you're an Elf or Half-Elf.
 
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Gladius Legis

Explorer
IX. Builds and Combos


[sblock=I. Variant Human Battle Master, Polearm Master]

Starting right away with the most damaging pure STR-Fighter build. Very feat intensive (hence starting as a Variant Human), but the results in the form of many dead enemies in short order speak for themselves.

Obviously, if you prefer to use a greatsword/greataxe/maul, just take Polearm Master out of this build and replace it with Great Weapon Master at Lv. 1 and adjust the rest of the stat boosts and feats accordingly. The consistent DPR will be a bit lower, but it'll actually be even more damaging on an Action Surge, thanks to the higher base damage of the weapon (and bonus actions being limited to just 1/round ever).

Race: Human (Variant)
Background: Soldier
Alignment: LN

Proficient Skills: Athletics (STR), Perception (WIS), Intimidation (CHA), Survival (WIS), Insight (WIS)
Proficient Tools: Gaming Set (one), Vehicles (Land), Artisan's Tools (one) (Lv. 3)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it)
Weapon: Glaive OR halberd, Javelins

Point buy array: 15, 15, 13, 12, 8, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 16, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Polearm Master
Lv. 4: STR 16, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Polearm Master, Sentinel
Lv. 6: STR 16, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Great Weapon Master
Lv. 8: STR 18, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Great Weapon Master
Lv. 12: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Great Weapon Master
Lv. 14: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 8, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (WIS)
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 8, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (WIS), Alert
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 8, Polearm Master, Sentinel, Great Weapon Master, Resilient (WIS), Alert, Lucky

Fighting Style (Lv. 1): Great Weapon Fighting

Battle Master Maneuvers:
Lv. 3: Riposte, Precision Attack, Trip Attack
Lv. 7: Menacing Attack, Disarming Attack
Lv. 10: Evasive Footwork, Maneuvering Attack
Lv. 15: Goading Attack, Pushing Attack
[/sblock]

[sblock=II. Mountain Dwarf Battle Master, Tavern Brawler]

Seriously, no Fighter Guide would be complete without a Dwarf. Like many Dwarves, he loves a good tavern brawl (hence Tavern Brawler). He’ll punch ‘em, grab ‘em and shove them down into submission. If he really means business he’ll smash his battleaxe or warhammer into them in true Dwarven fashion. Otherwise a few fists to the face’ll do. If it’s too big to grapple, he’ll pull out his shield to better take the punishment while dealing his own.

Race: Mountain Dwarf
Background: Soldier
Alignment: LG

Proficient Skills: Athletics (STR), Perception (WIS), Intimidation (CHA), Survival (WIS)
Proficient Tools: Gaming Set (one), Vehicles (Land), Smith's Tools OR Brewer's Supplies (Lv. 3) (Whaddya expect, he's a Dwarf.)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it), Shield
Weapon: Battleaxe OR warhammer, handaxes and/or light hammers

Point buy array: 15, 15, 13, 12, 8, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 17, DEX 12, CON 17, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8
Lv. 4: STR 17, DEX 12, CON 18, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Tavern Brawler
Lv. 6: STR 18, DEX 12, CON 18, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Tavern Brawler, Heavy Armor Master
Lv. 8: STR 18, DEX 12, CON 18, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Tavern Brawler, Heavy Armor Master, Sentinel
Lv. 12: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 18, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 8, Tavern Brawler, Heavy Armor Master, Sentinel
Lv. 14: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 18, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 8, Tavern Brawler, Heavy Armor Master, Sentinel, Resilient (WIS)
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 18, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 8, Tavern Brawler, Heavy Armor Master, Sentinel, Resilient (WIS), Lucky
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 20, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 8, Tavern Brawler, Heavy Armor Master, Sentinel, Resilient (WIS), Lucky

Fighting Style (Lv. 1): Dueling

Battle Master Maneuvers:
Lv. 3: Riposte, Precision Attack, Trip Attack
Lv. 7: Menacing Attack, Disarming Attack
Lv. 10: Maneuvering Attack, Evasive Footwork
Lv. 15: Goading Attack, Pushing Attack
[/sblock]

[sblock=III. Wood Elf Battle Master, Crossbow Expert/Sharpshooter]

What the Polearm Master does in melee, this one does at range. Lots of dead bodies await.

(It's not hard to turn this build into a longbow-wielder. Just take out Crossbow Expert, move up Sharpshooter to Lv. 4, and adjust stat bumps and feats accordingly.)

Race: Wood Elf
Background: Urban Bounty Hunter
Alignment: CG

Proficient Skills: Acrobatics (DEX), Survival (WIS), Perception (WIS), Stealth (DEX), Insight (WIS)
Proficient Tools: Thieves' Tools, Musical Instrument (one), Artisan's Tools (one) (Lv. 3)

Armor: Studded leather
Weapon: Hand crossbow, heavy crossbow

Point buy array
: 15, 15, 14, 10, 8, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 10, DEX 17, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 15, CHA 8
Lv. 4: STR 10, DEX 17, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 15, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert
Lv. 6: STR 10, DEX 17, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 15, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter
Lv. 8: STR 10, DEX 18, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 15, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter
Lv. 12: STR 10, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 15, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter
Lv. 14: STR 10, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter, Resilient (WIS)
Lv. 16: STR 10, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter, Resilient (WIS), Alert
Lv. 19: STR 10, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter, Resilient (WIS), Alert, Lucky

Fighting Style (Lv. 1): Archery

Battle Master Maneuvers:
Lv. 3: Precision Attack, Menacing Attack, Pushing Attack
Lv. 7: Trip Attack, Disarming Attack
Lv. 10: Evasive Footwork, Maneuvering Attack
Lv. 15: Goading Attack, Parry
[/sblock]

[sblock=IV. High Elf Eldritch Knight, rapier + shield]

This Eldritch Knight actually does care about their INT score. Goes rapier and shield and takes War Caster to be able to cast Shield on reaction fully armed and shielded.

Race: High Elf
Background: Urban Bounty Hunter
Alignment: CG

Proficient Skills: Acrobatics (DEX), Survival (WIS), Perception (WIS), Stealth (DEX), Insight (WIS)
Proficient Tools: Thieves' Tools, Musical Instrument (one)

Armor: Studded leather, Shield
Weapon: Rapier

Point buy array: 15, 15, 14, 10, 8, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 8, DEX 17, CON 14, INT 16, WIS 10, CHA 8
Lv. 4: STR 8, DEX 17, CON 14, INT 16, WIS 10, CHA 8, War Caster
Lv. 6: STR 8, DEX 18, CON 14, INT 16, WIS 11, CHA 8, War Caster
Lv. 8: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 14, INT 16, WIS 11, CHA 8, War Caster
Lv. 12: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 14, INT 16, WIS 11, CHA 8, War Caster, Sentinel
Lv. 14: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 14, INT 16, WIS 12, CHA 8, War Caster, Sentinel, Resilient (WIS)
Lv. 16: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 14, INT 18, WIS 12, CHA 8, War Caster, Sentinel, Resilient (WIS)
Lv. 19: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 14, INT 20, WIS 12, CHA 8, War Caster, Sentinel, Resilient (WIS)

Fighting Style (Lv. 1): Dueling

Spells Known:

Cantrips: Booming Blade, Fire Bolt, Green-Flame Blade (Lv. 10)
1st-level (Lv. 3): Shield, Absorb Elements, Find Familiar, Protection from Evil and Good (Lv. 4)
2nd-level (Lv. 7): Shatter (retrain at Lv. 13), Mirror Image (Lv. 8), Gust of Wind (Lv. 10), Melf's Acid Arrow (Lv. 11) (retrain at Lv. 14)
3rd-level (Lv. 13): Melf's Minute Meteors (retrained from Shatter), Counterspell, Haste (Lv. 14), Fireball (retrained from Melf's Acid Arrow), Dispel Magic (Lv. 16)
4th-level (Lv. 19): Fire Shield, Greater Invisibility (Lv. 20)
[/sblock]

[sblock=V. Half-Elf Purple Dragon Knight]

This is about as close to an actual pure martial Warlord as we currently have in 5e. Goes sword-and-shield and, of course, also takes Shield Master.

Race: Half Elf (Skill Versatility)
Background: Soldier
Alignment: LN

Proficient Skills: Athletics (STR), Perception (WIS), Intimidation (CHA), Survival (WIS), Persuasion (CHA), Insight (WIS), Animal Handling (WIS) (Lv. 7)
Proficient Tools: Gaming Set (one), Vehicles (Land)

Armor: Chain mail (Lv. 1) -> Plate (as soon as can afford it), Shield
Weapon: Longsword, javelins

Point buy array: 15, 13, 13, 12, 12, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 16, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 14
Lv. 4: STR 16, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 14, Inspiring Leader
Lv. 6: STR 16, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 14, Inspiring Leader, Shield Master
Lv. 8: STR 18, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 14, Inspiring Leader, Shield Master
Lv. 12: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 13, CHA 14, Inspiring Leader, Shield Master
Lv. 14: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 14, Inspiring Leader, Shield Master, Resilient (WIS)
Lv. 16: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 14, Inspiring Leader, Shield Master, Resilient (WIS), Alert
Lv. 19: STR 20, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 14, Inspiring Leader, Shield Master, Resilient (WIS), Alert, Lucky

Fighting Style (Lv. 1): Protection
[/sblock]
 
Last edited:

Undrhil

Explorer
You can make a decent WIS-based fighter by starting Variant Human with Magic Initiate: Druid. Have WIS be 16 after racial stat bump and take Shillelagh as one of your cantrips. Thorn Whip is a good 30-foot melee attack cantrip and Goodberry is a good pick-me-up that you can hand out to the other party members to make sure they can get you back up when you take more damage than you have hit points :)

I am currently playing one of these guys in Adventurer's League and he's a Banneret. His CHA is 8, though, so that Expertise with Persuasion is very helpful. :)
 

Ryuu Hayato

Villager
I have one question.

My character is lvl 19 Human Champion.

My stats: STR 20; DEX 14; CON 18; INT 11; WIS 12; CHA 12.
HP: 194
AC: 20
Saves: STR +13; DEX +4; CON +12; INT +2; WIS +9; CHA +4.
Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting and Archery
Feats: Resilient (Wisdom); Great Weapon Master.
Magical Items: Luckstone; Vorpal Sword; Cloak of Protection; Plate+2; Elven Boots; Longbow +2.
Iniciative: +6
Skills: Acrobatic + 6; Animal Handling + 2; Arcana +1; Athletics +12; Deception +2; History +7; Insight +2; Intimidation +8; Investigation +1; Medicine +2; Nature +1; Perception +8; Performance +2; Persuasion +8; Religion +1; Sleight of Hand +6; Stealth +6; Survival +2.
Weapons: Greatsword +11 to hit, 2d6+8 damage; Longbow +12 to hit, 1d8+4 damage.


Shoud I put the last 2 points in Constitution to have +19 HP, +1 on CON saves and checks, and have +10 HP on Survivor instead +9? Or put +2 on Dex to have +1 on all dex saves, checks, iniciative and sometimes bow attacks? Or another thing?
 

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